Shane Kelly reasserted his Donington pace with a win in race three
Shane Kelly leaves the opening weekend of the F3 Cup season a winner once again, after a storming victory in the final race.
For the past two seasons, Kelly has collected a clean sweep of wins at the Donington Park opener, but fresh challengers this weekend kept him from reaching the top spot until the last race.
The cars lined up for the longer, 20 minute race in warm, sunny conditions. Stuart Wiltshire and Jacopo Sebastiani made fantastic starts as the lights went out, Wiltshire leap-frogging pole sitter Stephen Daly to lead the grid into the first corner. Kelly drew alongside Daly as the duo challenged each other for second place.
At the end of the lap Kelly was right on Wiltshire's tail, using the tow from his Dallara to gain the speed required to pass him at Redgate on lap two. Daly wasted no time trying to pass Wiltshire, but soon found himself under pressure from Sebastiani. The three way battle allowed Kelly to build up a lead at the front, giving himself a safety net.
In the midst of this, Cian Carey was enjoying his best race of the weekend. After being forced to retire from the previou two races, the Irishman was now flying through the pack having started on the back row. Within the first four laps he had passed everyone up to and including Sebastiani, finding himself in fourth place. Sebastiani tried to pass him back but quickly found himself under pressure from Line and Bishop, themselves embroiled in another race-long tussle.
Carey posted a string of fastest laps as he chased the leaders, and although the gaps were small the order remained the same for a few laps. Wiltshire caqm under attack from from both Daly and Carey, although the two Irishmen were too focused on each other to pose a true threat at that point.
When Daly did get close enough to try a move on Wiltshire, a spin at Mcleans cost him dearly and he dropped down to seventh place when he rejoined. This moved Carey up to the podium slots, and allowed Wiltshire some breathing room.
In the closing laps, Wiltshire and Carey were separated by just 0.37s but with Sebastiani closing in, Carey couldn't risk another DNF and focussed on holding the position. In the chasing pack Daly reclaimed the fastest lap honours, passing Bishop then Line who were nose-to-tail and posting almost identical times.
At the chequered flag Kelly claimed the victory, with Wiltshire and Carey completing the podium.
Kelly said on the podium, "It was nice to get in front in clear air. I got a run on Stuart [Wiltshire] down the back and got him into the chicane. I just got my head down then. It's nice to be on the top again! Credit to the new team again, their first ever race weekend - three races, three podiums - brilliant!"
Wiltshire commented, "The last race is always tricky with well worn tyres but, I don't know if anyone noticed, I did take the lead and I held it until I made a mistake - sorry - until I gave Shane a bit of an easy run! He didn't have to work hard for it that's for sure, this is my gift to him this year!"
A relieved Carey said, "From lap one in qualifying there was an issue with the engine, we thought it was a misfire and we changed a lot of things but had two DNFs. I knew I had the pace to be right up there at the front so it was nice to show it there at the end."
Stephen Daly claimed the Sunoco Fastest Lap of the Weekend Award for his lightning lap in race one yesterday. Collecting the award, he said, "That was an awesome weekend for the first time racing with the F3 Cup guys. I'm delighted, even though we had two spins we come away with the fastest lap award and two podiums. It's a fantastic circuit, fantastic cars and I can't wait to get back out!"